Do You Want Fries With That?

If you’ve been to a fast food restaurant, you probably have been asked this question. This question is an example of a call-to-action.

A call-to-action tells people what to do by inviting them to make a decision.  The invitation won’t always be responded to positively, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never get a yes.

I’m still surprised how many Google Ads or other lead generation tactics like email marketing direct people to the company’s homepage or a regular page within the site.  This is especially the case with higher education.  While more and more institutions are using Google Ads and other online marketing, they are missing an important factor – the call-to-action.

The fact that a visitor responded to an online marketing tactic immediately qualifies them to hear more and take action.  Why then would you waste the click by taking them to a page without any focus or even an invitation?

The elements of a great call-to-action

A call-to-action doesn’t always have involve completing an inquiry form (although that is the most standard type).  It could also be downloading a PDF whitepaper, making a phone call, registering for an event, etc.  The main thing is that the call-to-action is measurable.

Regardless of the end result, there are a number of elements that make a great call-to-action:

  • Urgency: Imposing a deadline to act will motivate those who may be sitting on the fence to act quickly.  Why do think every infomercial says something like, “if you order in the next 30 minutes, we’ll throw in a second set for free?”
  • Proximity:  The call-to-action needs to be near the top of the page and without too much clutter surrounding it. There needs to be enough white space in order for the call-to-action to be clearly identified.
  • Wording: There are words that are more active and promote action than others. For example, instead of ‘Learn More’ use ‘Request Your Information Package.’  Some ideas for action words include buy, register, call, book, subscribe, etc.

The best call-to-action will include all these elements.  Ultimately, the only way you’ll know if your call-to-action is working is to measure and test it.  Google Analytics has great new feature called Content Experiments that allows to test the success rate of different pages.

If you are not implementing high quality call-to-actions in your online marketing mix, you are wasting your money.

Please share what factors have you’ve noticed affected the success of your call-to-actions?